Thursday, July 5, 2007

Relive the Magic of Tommy Gun

Tonight at 8:00 PM EST on NFL Network, an unedited replay of the 2002 Wild Card Game between the Steelers and Browns (aka the Tommy Maddox comeback game) is going to be aired. That's a despondent Kelly Holcomb to your right as he comes to the realization that the Steelers have broken the hearts of the Browns. Again.

This was arguably one of the most exciting games in Steelers history. I wasn’t there to see it in person, but I am the proud owner of a VHS copy of the game. As such, I have viewed this game a couple times, and it gets better with each showing. If you haven’t watched it since that memorable day in 2002, and if you have NFL Network, I suggest you sit down for a few hours and relive the absolute apex of the Maddox era. In honor of tonight’s re-airing, here are 10 thoughts to keep in mind as you watch this classic:

1. The starting secondary for the Steelers that day? Dewayne Washington, Deshea Townsend, Lee Flowers, and Brent Alexander. Yikes. Townsend was in because the immortal Chad Scott was not active due to injury. I can’t get past how brutal that secondary is. How the hell did we make the playoffs? In the regular season, were we playing teams that had QB’s with no arms, and thus could not pass the ball? You would find more speed in a retirement home than you would in that secondary.

The Molasses Quartet

2. Speaking of the Steelers secondary, Hank Poteat saw a lot of action during this game due to Scott’s injury. He immediately made his presence felt on the Browns first drive, causing a miscommunication in coverage that led to an 83-yard strike from Kelly Holcomb to Kevin Johnson, which set up the Browns opening touchdown. I never thought I would ever get to the point where I missed Chad Scott in the Steelers secondary, but it got to that point, thanks to Poteat.

3. Why did they ever get rid of the old NFL on CBS music? I loved it.

4. Although the aforementioned Steelers secondary may have had something to do with it, Browns backup QB Kelly Holcomb had the game of his life, throwing for 429 yards and 3 TD’s. The Browns knew the Steelers weakness, and attacked it. It’s quite the novel concept, a concept the Steelers couldn’t grasp last year and many years in the past. Honestly, I’m tired of the “impose our will” philosophy of past Steeler teams, where we insisted on running the ball, even as the opponent stuffed 9 defenders in the box. Why do I mention this? Because the Browns offensive coordinator that day was Bruce Arians. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he was promoted to offensive coordinator for the Steelers this year. Please attack the weaknesses of the opposing defense this year, Coach Arians.

5. What can you say about Tommy Maddox. 30 for 48, 378 yards, 3 TD’s (and 2 INT’s. It wouldn’t be a Tommy Maddox game without some INT’s). It’s jarring to see him play like a competent NFL QB. He was outstanding this game, leading the comeback charge, although he did get lucky when Browns safety Earl Little dropped an easy 4th quarter INT that would have sealed the game for Cleveland.

This man once resembled an NFL QB

6. Even after Little dropped the INT, the Browns had another chance to seal the deal. But on 3rd and 10 with a little less than 3 minutes to go and the Browns up 33-28, Dennis Northcutt dropped a pass right in his bread basket that would have given Cleveland 1st and 10. To this day, I don’t know how he dropped it. This is a catch he probably makes in his sleep; one he’d probably make 99 out of 100 times. Not this time.

7. If you want to see a run defense at its finest, watch this game. The Steelers run D was on fire. Browns starting RB William Green ran for only 30 yards on 25 attempts. Even that’s a bit misleading, as he got 23 of them on one 4th quarter carry. On his previous 18 runs before that, he ran for 1, -1, 5, -2, -1, 1, 2, 0, 0, 0, -5, -4, 5, -3, -1, -3, 1, and 2 yards. I don’t even know why they attempted to run the ball, the way their passing game was going.

8. Antwaan Randle El’s punt return for a TD to jumpstart the Steelers was huge, but the turning point of this game was Mike Logan’s interception of Holcomb halfway through the 3rd quarter. It seemed the game was over at this point, as the Browns were up 24-7 and driving in Steelers territory for another score. Logan’s INT sparkplugged the comeback, as the Steelers took advantage of it on the ensuing drive for a much needed TD.

9. E is for Effort. Unbelievable displays of effort by two Steelers in this game. First, Kendrell Bell, playing on a bum ankle, had in my opinion his best game as a Steeler. He was all over the field. His stats in this game don’t do him justice. Watch tonight and you will see what I’m talking about. He had to take a painkiller shot before this game, and I don’t think he’s been the same ever since. The other was by Hines Ward on his TD in the 4th quarter that closed the gap to 33-28. Surrounded by three or four Browns near the goal line, he makes the catch, gets nailed, and burrows his way into the end zone.

10. Where have you gone, Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala? The big Samoan rumbled 3 yards into the endzone for the go-ahead TD, and because of it has a special spot in the hearts of all Steeler fans.

Trust me, there are more moments. This is recommended viewing. If anyone out there has some other memories from this game that they’d like to share, do so in the comments.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I remember watching this game in my girlfriend's (now fiancee's) dorm room and turned the game off in disgust in the third quarter. But like the glutton for punishment that I am, I turned it back on in time to see the final comeback.

I watched the replay just now (it's Sunday night) and I found myself getting amped up yet again, and this time I knew how it ended. That's the mark of a great game to me.